Tag Archives: family

Young Man Went West #29-C: Winter Trip Facebook Statuses, Unabridged (Pt. 3)

Day 7: Berkeley day with my big sis, Melanie Ramil, then lunch in L-mo with Casey Cochran. Last minute Christmas tree shopping with the family proved a failure, so we ended up decorating a 4-foot houseplant and watching a color-corrected version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Strange Christmas. . .

I can’t not go to the Bay Area without at least one trip to my old college town.  Except for the occasional new restaurant on Telegraph, signs of progress on the stadium, and the lack of students (I’m always visiting during a break), Berkeley still feels the same.  After trying (and failing) to see my old boss Kelly at the Bancroft Hotel, Ate Melanie and I chowed down on some pupusas in El Platano, a Salvadoran place at which she used to work.  The waitress got three out of four of our pupusa orders wrong, but it didn’t matter; they’re all delicious.

We then hit up the Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair, which comes around every weekend in December.  If you’ve ever walked past the vendors on Telegraph on a normal day, imagine that times a hundred.  And in the street.  The city cordons off four blocks of Telegraph, from Bancroft to Dwight, and vendors from all over the Bay line both sides of the street with their homemade goods.  One can find everything from candles to metal scrap statues, knit mittens to freshly popped kettle corn.  My sister does a lot of Christmas shopping here.

The two of us left Berkeley before I could meet up with my friends in the area so as to beat traffic (sorry Nate and Olivia!).  After grabbing a bit to eat and a beer with Casey at First Street Ale House in downtown Livermore, I rejoined my family for our traditional Christmas tree hunt.  I use the term “hunt” loosely since it usually just means driving to the closest lot.  Usually.  This year was different.  This year, we got a late start because somebody wanted to go gallivanting around southern California until December 22nd, meaning we couldn’t get a tree until the 23rd.  Apparently, nobody thinks people would be in the market for a Christmas tree so late in the game.  Our little shopping venture actually turned into a hunt as we prowled around Livermore in the Hyundai Sonata, scouting out the known Christmas tree lots, only to turn up empty-handed.

Downtrodden, we returned home and ultimately decided to settle on a (shudder) FAKE Christmas tree.  We’ve NEVER had a fake Christmas tree, and I could tell my dad was not happy.  He’s pretty nonchalant about most things, but by the look in his eyes I knew he saw a fake tree as a slap in the face to the memories of his childhood Christmases.  I had messed with tradition, and I felt bad.

While my mom was out buying the plastic Christmas twig, my dad was struck with a clever idea.  “How about this for a Christmas tree?” he yelled from the den.  My sister and I walked around the corner, curious, and found my dad pointing at a four-foot tall house plant.  It was so unexpected we couldn’t help but laugh and love it.  We promptly called up Mom and told her to forget about the fake plant for we had a worthy, if not ironic, substitute.

Another part of our Christmas tradition is decorating the tree with our ornaments, all of which are unique.  Except for our yearly family ornaments (ya know, those big ones with the year and our names), all of ours were gifts from friends, family, and my dad’s past students.  Absolutely no store-bought boxes of bulbs in bulk.  My mom, sister, and I retell the same stories behind each ornament while my dad watches It’s a Wonderful Life and critiques our hanging of said ornaments.  (Actually, we laugh about how we tell the same stories.  Pretty meta.)  This year, we couldn’t find our copy of the Frank Capra classic, so while my mom was out not buying the tree, she also purchased a new copy.  This one had a colorized version on the flip side.  Staring at our Christmas house plant, which was sagging under the weight of a fraction of our ornaments, my dad and I knew we had to watch the colorized version, much to my sister’s displeasure.  It was different, not worse.  The main thing was that I discovered how many daytime scenes there were.

The family in front of our Christmas House Plant

‘Twas a strange Christmas, but it’ll ultimately go down as one of the most memorable.

Day 8-9: Sister and I had breakfast w/Jake Sorensen and Jessi Bucey in Sac before continuing on to Lotus for the traditional Christmas Eve extravaganza with the Ramils. Good times, as always. Drove back home the next morning with the family and stayed in pajamas all day, even through our family Christmas dinner. The parents got the hang of their nooks a lot faster than expected.

Our Christmas Eves are spent with my dad’s side of the family at our “house in the woods” in Lotus.  Since my mom had to work until the evening, my dad stayed behind while my sister and I headed north that morning.  Sacramento is somewhat on the way to Lotus, so that was our first stop.  Not only does my sister live there, but so does my college roommate Jake and his girlfriend Jessi.  The four of us met up for breakfast.  Over delicious omelettes, our conversation quickly turned from jobs and future prospects to robots, hypothetical universes, and screenplays.  Some things never change.  Though brief, our encounters are never boring.

After a quick stop at my sister’s rat-terrorized apartment (a gritty war story that should–and may–be its own post), we continued on to Lotus.  Since its usually just the northern California chapter of our family, this get-together is relatively small compared to the bigger events (like a 100th birthday).  Ya know, only about forty or so people.

Everything played out as it it usually does: aunties in the kitchen cooking too much food, uncles drinking outside around the fire, cousins lounging about the living room while their kids run around on an endless amount of energy.  Dinnertime looks pretty much the same except everybody has an overflowing plate in hand.  There’s no room for a table big enough to hold us.  After dinner comes the presents, which, in my family, is a two- to three- hour long event.

I have noticed a drop in the patience and gratitude levels of the young folk.  When I was a kid, I hugged everybody who gave me a gift and waited patiently for my next one.  I’m not saying there aren’t some little cousins that do exactly that (see photo below), but there are definitely others who seem unsatisfied unless there’s a constant stream of toys coming there way.  I’m going to blame this on instantly-gratifying, Internet-infused, multimedia technology.  Attention spans have become an endangered species.  Thankfully, as long as we have family–and some copy of It’s a Wonderful Life–Christmas spirit will not be.

Exception: this kid. He sat quietly, was genuinely excited every time his name was called ("For me?!"), and loved EVERY gift he got ("This is EXACTLY what I wanted!")

The next morning we drove back to Livermore for more of my immediate family’s tradition: opening presents in pajamas.  As the baby in the family, I love this tradition because I’m the young one all over again (as opposed to the older cousin who hands out presents and plays in the adults’ White Elephant).  We drank hot chocolate and snacked on a plethora of random hors d’oeuvres my mom prepared.  My Uncle Mike and Cousin Jordan even stopped by for a second on their way back from Lotus.  Even though our rented digital copy of A Christmas Carol crapped out, I couldn’t ask for more.

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Young Man Went West #29-A: Winter Trip Facebook Statuses, Unabridged (Pt. 1)

Day 1: HNL to OAK. Arrive @ 9:45 PST. Meet family at hotel in Concord and prepare for my grandma’s 100th birthday celebration tomorrow.

Unlike most trips I take to and from California, I flew into Oakland with company, my cousin Brad.  Managed to get the seat next to him, across the aisle.  It was a typical, uneventful flight, but that’s a good thing when it comes to air travel considering the alternative: screaming, crashing, flames, and death.  Instead, this one consisted of Sky Mall, sporadic naps, and most of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (my laptop died before the last scene).  We arrived at Oakland Airport in the brisk, breezy night.  My body covered  with warm layers and a big smile, I was happy to be back in the Bay.

Day 2: Went straight from the airport to BART to a bar (and later a diner) with the cousins. Went to bed late, woke up early. Now, putting together a slideshow for my grandma’s 100th birthday celebration tonight.

Since all of our family was at a Hilton in the nearby city of Concord, Brad and I took a free shuttle from the airport to an Oakland BART station, and then took BART into Concord.  I would have liked to say that our older siblings were there shortly afterward to pick us up, but somehow they got lost along the way, which is surprising since they’ve each lived in or near Concord at some point in their lives.  It’s alright, they came bearing Taco Bell.

Instead of heading to the  hotel where I could have dropped off my unnecessarily large, half-filled suitcase (only one I had), we drove straight to a downtown bar where a dozen of our cousins were already drinking.  I’m not complaining; being a young traveler and a family-oriented man, this was a fantastic welcome!  Although, it was weird seeing so many old, white people in a bar (you know, everybody but my family), but that’s what happens when you live in Hawaii for fifteen months.  We capped the night at a 24-hour diner, overwhelming the other diners in sheer number and volume.  Never put a drunk Filipino family in a public place with a jukebox.

I made it to the hotel in the wee hours of the night.  My loving parents woke up just long enough to hug me hello before falling back asleep.

We woke up relatively early the next morning to start on preparations for that evening’s festivities.  My main job was to put together a slideshow of my grandmother to play while people shuffled into the ballroom.  Projects in hand, we all congregated in a top floor suite and buckled down to business for the next few hours.  It almost felt like a busy campaign office before an election, except instead of fliers and buttons we had too much food and dozens of relatives to hug hello.  Though we were all working hard for that one special someone: birthday girl Fausta Reyes Ramil.

Fausta Ramil a.k.a. Grandma a.k.a. Lola

Day 3: Crazy night with the family. 6 hours of celebration, including a 3-hour talent show and then dancefloor badness. After party included 50 tacos from Jack in the Box at 3 AM. Now, it’s time to fly to LA.

All the aunties, uncles, and cousins were dressed to the nines and down in the ballroom around 5 pm.  Surrounding the stage and dancefloor were twenty-two linen-covered tables, a DJ, and a bustling catering crew.  After some frantic family photos (with what seemed a less-than-enthusiastic photographer) we spread out to greet, organize, and mingle with the other guests: friends and family from grandma’s past and present.  In all, attendance was around two hundred people.

This is just the family. . . which made up for about half the guest list.

Of course, my family just can’t say a few words, move to dinner, and mingle all night.  Oh no, we had a well-scheduled, fourteen-act talent show filled with song, dance, skits, and my uncle’s version of “This Is Your Life!”  I think the guests not as familiar with my family were pleasantly surprised by Polynesian and Filipino dances, the multiple duets, and the big show numbers.  Either that, or they were too scared to move.

Dinner was served during the performances, and after all was digested and the last act took a bow, the party started.  Everybody–young and old, family or friend, born into the craziness or witnessing it for the first time–took to the dancefloor and busted many a groove.  During all three hours of this, my grandmother refused to go to bed.  At one hundred years young, she stayed up ’til midnight to watch her legacy celebrate in her honor.

When the DJ announced the last song of the night, my sister–cousin number fourteen and that evening’s event coordinator–came up with one of her best ideas.  After the song ended she had everybody make a huge circle on the dancefloor.  My Auntie Gloria wheeled grandma to the center and the DJ started playing one last song: Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings,” a family favorite.  Auntie Gloria spun grandma around slowly as we all sang to her.  There was not a dry eye in that circle.

The old ones went to bed, while the young ones (and the old ones who still think they’re young) retreated to the common room for some debauchery and poker.  After a while we got hungry, and since nobody was delivering pizza, my cousin’s husband Scott and I made a late night run to Jack in the Box for fifty (“Yes, five-zero”) tacos.  We held up the drive-thru line long enough for some woman to get out of her car and yell at us and/or the graveshift workers.  Scott and I thought we were returning to at least ten hungry men, but instead found a room of about four or five, with another passed out on the floor.  We that remained did as much damage as we could to the greasy bags, but barely made it through twenty or so tacos.  My limit, I found out, was four (not because I was full, but because my body couldn’t handle that much questionable meat).

The next day, after a hearty breakfast and many hugs goodbye, I went back to Oakland Airport for the So Cal leg of my trip.

 

Dancing to one of our family favorites: "Come On, Eileen."

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YMWW #22: Bust a Rut

Before I start, I would like to extend a heartfelt apology to my dear cousin Avery who, though serving as the focal point for my six latest Facebook albums, felt distraught by the fact that I failed to mention her in my last note.  Apparently, any mention of my trip to Seattle must be accompanied with a “Thank you, Avery.”

I went to Seattle.  Thank you, Avery.

Gangsta Cousins: Lil' Ave, B-Rad, and Young Man

All kidding aside, I love my cousin and will actually focus the first part of my note on her.

You know for how no reason at all, everything in your life just falls apart and you find yourself spiraling down a never-ending vortex of despair?  I don’t.  Not offense to anyone currently down on their luck, but recently, good things just started happening to me.  To me.  Be it fate, luck, or karma, my quotidian life is simply getting better, and through none of my own doing.  Not that my life wasn’t kinda awesome before, it’s just more awesomeful now.  Yes, I just made “awesomeful” a word.

And it all started with Avery.  My return from Seattle opened my eyes to a routine.  Avery’s return from Seattle a week later broke that routine.  There’s now another face at my family dinners, another buddy at my late-night bar outings, another brain with whom to discuss everything from TV shows to philosophical quandaries.  Moreover, she shares my weird yet witty sense of humor.  Avery, I’m glad you chose to move back to attend UH Law (you’re welcome) because I love having you around.

What else is changing, you ask?  The size of my social circles, I say.  It’s no secret that by knowing people, you get to know other people.  It’s like a pyramid scheme, except that instead of being screwed over and losing money, you’re connecting with other human beings and spending money (that’s different from “losing money” because it’s justifiable).  By accepting  invitations to after-work happy hours and late nights at a jazz lounge, I’ve recently expanded my social circles to include bartenders, musicians, and crazy people like David a.k.a Guitarzan, a Jazz Minds regular that possibly plays guitar and definitely screams like Tarzan every few minutes.  I found myself taking on-the-house shots with The Deadbeats after closing time one night, and listening to the horror stories of a former navy medic the next.  Opportunities like this seem to be happening more frequently, and all I have to do is say, “Sure, I’m down to go out tonight.”

The greatest and most serendipitous change, however, was in my living situation.  Most of you are aware that I have been living in an three-bedroom townhouse with up to nine other dudes.  At first it was pretty sweet because I had roommates from all over the world.  However, people came and went and the atmosphere of the house went from eye-opening International House to filthy frat house.

I conveyed this situation to my cousin last week and he said, “Oh, you remember Jeremy’s girlfriend Gaby?  She lives a few blocks away from you and is looking for a roommate.”  Several calls and a few days later and I found myself in the process of moving into her clean, two-bedroom apartment.  I’ll be taking over the bedroom she’s not using for the same price I currently pay, which is great because it’s bigger and I won’t have to share it.  I imagine it will be far easier to live with one female instead of nine guys, especially one who cleans and cooks (and cooks pupusas, as rumor has it!).  All I needed to do was find some furniture. . .

Fast forward half an hour after meeting up with Gaby: I tell the great news of my move to my coworker Amanda and the first thing she says is, “Do you need furniture?  I’m trying to sell and get rid of everything I have before I move at the end of this month.”  Still giddy over my newfound place, I listen as Amanda lists off the items she’s willing to sell/give me: a bed, a book shelf, a TV, a DVD player, a George Foreman grill, and so on.

Did that just happen?!  Does this just happen?  Do things just magically click in your favor?

Apparently, yes.  And it’s awesomeful.

The way things are going, I fully expect to be walking along Waikiki when I run into this chick, and she will say to me, "Man, I'm way too tired from surfing all day to drive back to my place on North Shore. Where do you live?"

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YMWW #4: Settling In

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

(Originally posted on Facebook)

In my first entry, I talked about how I wasn’t really excited about the move until I got here. That was only part of the story. What I didn’t mention was that while excitement finally hit, apprehension didn’t completely dissolve. One week ago I had arrived, but I was not settled. I have the fortune of staying with family (more about that later), but until I get a job and a place, I’m still in Visitor Mode. I did not come to visit.

Wait, what was that, Anthony-From-Two-Days-Ago? You already got a job?

Yeah, that’s right, Recession, my friend Craigslist and I just joined forces and kicked your ass with a job at Whole Foods Market at Kahala Mall! I’m not sure what my position is called, but I work the Asian food section (Kikka Sushi) in the prepared foods bar in the back of the grocery store. While I don’t make the sushi, I do make everything else: teriyaki meats, Korean barbecue, Chicken Katsu Curry (!), and many other dishes you can throw over a bowl of rice. Oh, and I do soups.

It’s a lot of work with a billion different things to do—and a lot of recipes to learn—but it keeps me busy and brings me money. Believe it or not, I was almost getting tired of having no responsibilities. I couldn’t wander around aimlessly forever (though it is one of my favorite activities). And even though I am on my feet all day, I nearly burn or cut myself constantly, and I still can’t make Chicken Katsu Don, I am grateful that I have something to keep me occupied. Plus, I get to wear a sweet kimono/chef jacket hybrid.

The best part about it, though, is that I’m half of the way to being settled in, and I’m definitely not in Visitor Mode. Having this job has allowed me to look for places to live, and I have a few in mind (one of which expects me to move in on Friday, but I’m still keeping my eye on some other places). Along with getting here, learning how to navigate, finding transportation, and getting a job; finding a place to live is the last piece of the Settling In puzzle, and it’s nearly complete. But, as you all know, I didn’t do it alone.

This is the section where I’d like to thank my family in Hawai’i: my welcoming committee, my tour guides, my landlords, my cooks, my transportation providers, my friends, my security blanket. All rolled into one. I know I loved them and appreciated them already, but that realization hits with full force all the time here. For example, the Hawaii contingent of my family gets together every Sunday for tennis (or not) and dinner at Auntie Judy’s place and a few nights ago, I joined that tradition. And as I stood there playing pool in the backyard with one cousin, while another cousin barbecued steaks to one side of me, aunts and uncles played mahjong on the other, and numerous others were scattered about, it dawned on me how lucky I was to be a part of a tight-knit group in this wonderful place. I know of other people who tried out the “dream move” to Hawai’i, only to get lonely and leave. I’m glad that ain’t me.

So, to Auntie Norma, Uncle Carlos, Uncle Mario, Auntie Judy, Dean, Jill, Jon, Brad, Avery, Ellis, Arden, and Austen: thank you. For everything.

PS: Roxy model!

I know what you’re thinking, but she didn’t ruin that nice family moment. . .

. . . seeing as she’ll be a part of the family some day. What up!

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